The hospitality industry has a new mountain to climb. The first Gen Zers just turned 21, and they are surprisingly different from their millennial siblings. Right now 26% of the world’s population is in Generation Z, or those born between 1995-2014, which makes them the largest generation in the US. Resourceful, creative, humble – and always connected – this generation plans to learn from the past to create a world unlike anything we have ever seen. If millennials are the generation of optimists, Gen Z is more the generation of realists. Many have grown up witnessing their parents lose jobs during the Recession and their older siblings or cousins enter the workforce handcuffed by student debt, and are more likely to choose an alternative path.
Marietta has been a leading supplier of personal care hotel amenities for over 40 years; with a solid history of offering trusted brands to leading hotel groups and independent properties, we are no stranger to appealing to new and younger consumers. This extends to our brand portfolio, with brands like Aveda, Beekman 1802, Paul Mitchell, and Soapbox (among many others!) leading the personal care product industry in appealing to the new generation. These are products with naturally-derived ingredients, minimal packaging, and a lighter step on the carbon footprint – all things that Gen Z expects from their favorite brands.
That being said, here are a few things the hospitality industry should know about their newest consumers:
These kids care. In November’s midterm elections, young people turned out more than they ever have in history. According to the New York Times, voter turnout was younger and more diverse than ever before. Outside the polling booth they vote daily with their wallets, doing their research and using brands that align with their personal values.
The hospitality industry can use this mission-driven desire to get these kids to pause their Instagram scrolling and double-tap. According to Pew Research Center, 46% of Gen Z is concerned about climate change. At this point, I think I can safely say if you’re not on the enviro-train, you’re way behind. In the past two years, nearly every hotel or bed & breakfast I’ve stayed at had some collateral displayed encouraging guests to contribute to the property’s green initiative by reusing towels or shutting off lights and AC before leaving the room. Travelling, especially work travel, can make the days and hotels blend together, but hotels that put thought into their amenity offerings with clean ingredients and the always-memorable made in the USA label, tend to stand out in the crowd. Marietta has been supporting innovative environmentally-conscious brands for years, proving that you don’t have to take a hit in sales to save a few trees. And the more transparent the better to appeal to Generation Z.
We learned from millennials that experiential marketing is becoming more and more important, and that is even more true for then next gen. Authentic brand experiences combined with something tangible and tactile will capture their attention and keep them coming back. Kieran Mathew, CEO of Amplify Solutions captured it well in an interview with Forbes:
Hotels caught on to this trend a few years ago by transforming lobbies into a more inviting space for this demographic. We’re seeing lobbies designed to feel more like a home with “living-room style” furniture, plush pillows and throws blending in to open cafe seating or a home-bar-inspired craft-cocktail bar. Instead of a private “business center” with desktops, tech and outlets are more accessible and blend into the setup of the entire lobby. Especially as remote work is on the rise, this aligns with our millennial and Gen Z consumers who are just looking for a place to plop down their laptop and plug in their phone.
It’s not enough to have USB plugs in the bedside-table lamps anymore. Gen Zers report the most media consumption of any other demographic. While Gen X and millennials are described as “addicted,” this generation hasn’t known a time without mobile devices, and hardly recalls wired internet – so it’s more an extension of themselves and everything they do. Gen Z reports 6-8 hours a day using technology through their phones, laptops and TV respectively (Sparks & Honey). Who can blame them – with the right show, you could knock that out in one Netflix binge alone.
At the last traditional hotel I stayed in, when they handed me my key, the front desk person rattled off a few of the local cable TV channels. If I’m being honest, those numbers went in one ear and out the other. Conversely, at a recent stay in a boutique hotel in upstate NY I was told that the “typical streaming services are already logged in: Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and Amazon Prime.” I perked up, realizing I could stream the new season of The Great British Bake-off right where I left off at home. It’s these types of services that Gen Z will be expecting more and more at their favorite hotels and B&Bs. Because let’s be real, they probably brought their laptop and are going to stream them off your wifi anyway (you have free wifi, right?!).
That same upstate NY boutique hotel did something else that would make millennials and Gen Zers swoon: they maintained the integrity of an original victorian mansion – artifacts, shotskis and all – while keeping things very clean and very functional. Case in point: There was a 70-year-old real silver ice box in my room next to the coffee maker, and it wasn’t just for decoration; hotel staff encouraged me to bring it downstairs if I wanted ice in my room. This is a great example of putting an original piece of history, matching their decor, in the important real estate that is a one-bedroom hotel room while keeping it practical and functional. Young consumers want this blend of trendy but a resourceful use of space. I did want ice! And I used that ice bucket!
The swooning continues. This is a LEED certified historic mansion with low voltage LED lighting throughout the building, heated bathroom floors, Nest thermostats controlling the geothermal heating and air-conditioning, free fiber-optic internet, 19th century furniture restored with a modern flair, and a collection of original art pieces by renowned 20th century artists. And outlets – so many outlets. Thank you for bringing history to life while keeping up with the 21st century.
Beekman 1802 is a perfect complement to the vibe this new generation loves so much. Products are packaged in a vintage, apothecary-style bottle that beckons feelings from a past era, an era free of the chemical concerns in our hair and skin products. Beekman 1802 is made with natural ingredients and purified water with no Parabens, no banned phthalates, no petroleum, no paraffin, no diethanolamine, and no mineral oil, and packaging is 100% recyclable to boot. This is music to a 20-something’s ears.
Human stories are what prevails for this demographic, and that’s what will add authenticity and perceived value to your brand or product. Studies show that accompanying a story with a product increases sales exponentially – and that’s the human connection that your Gen Z consumers will expect. Reviews are just stories told by fellow consumers, which is more trustworthy than a marketing sales pitch that this generation can see right through.
Marietta’s brand partners do this better than most. Soapbox for example, a mission-driven, natural personal care company gives back a bar of soap or a month of clean water to underserved regions in the US and internationally for every one purchased. In addition to their community-driven values, these products are free of drying chemicals like parabens and phthalates. This is the type of collaboration young people expect from their products.
Don’t know where to start? Instead of assuming, contact and involve an influential member of their community with your brand management process (pro tip: check YouTube – where the average Gen Zer spends 2 hours a day). The value of peer-to-peer marketing is endless for this demographic, which is why their favorite IG celebs and YouTubers are successfully persuading them on what products to buy. YouTube isn’t just entertainment, it’s a influencer’s market. Keep in mind: the average attention span of Gen Z is eight seconds, which makes your brand storytelling method all the more important.
Hotels would be wise to put a trusted Marietta brand on the counter that will immediately resonate with guests and establish trust knowing that this tribe is highly visual, and that personal care amenities are the only thing in the room that guests will be applying to their skin and hair. If they care about their guests’ health, they care what goes in and on your body, and they will take care in putting natural, chemical-free brands on their counters.